The House Government Modernization Committee continued its series of oversight hearings last week. It's been our goal to provide oversight to the various ongoing state government modernization and efficiency initiatives. We need to know if the reforms are working and how much money they are saving.
Last week we reviewed the effort to sell underutilized state-owned properties and return them to the private sector.
It now appears that more than 3.1 million dollars has been generated through the program.
Oklahoma's Capital Assets Administrator told our committee that much of the proceeds from the sales have been used to repair and maintain the roofs of three Department of Corrections facilities, including the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester.
He told committee members that taxpayers are experiencing added savings from not having to maintain the underutilized properties.
In all, as part of the state asset reduction program, more than 362,000 square feet of owned and leased space have been removed from state custody.
Upon transfer to the private sector the liquidated properties become tax producers, whereas prior to transfer they were tax exempt.
You may see the latest report from the Capital Asset Division by visiting https://www.ok.gov/DCS/documents/2016RealPropertyAssetReport.pdf.
I really enjoyed this particular oversight hearing. Long time readers will probably remember my articles from 2011 to 2013, which is when we created the legislation to start this program.
I wrote that it was our goal to require the state to inventory its properties, find those that are no longer needed, and use the proceeds from the sale to fix deferred maintenance repairs on the structures that it still uses. I felt this approach would allow the state to avoid the issuance of new bond debt to finance the repairs and the punitive debt payments which ensue.
That vision was considered utopic by some and, while it is true that 3 million dollars might not be much in government terms, it is still a lot of money and we have to start somewhere.
Better still, our central management officials are instilling a new culture within state government: government should attempt to shrink its real property footprint and return as much government-owned land to the private sector as possible. I think this culture will have an impact for many years. It will result in much more reduction of resources under government management, and the proceeds will keep the state from having to issue so much debt.
I believe the other committee members have also enjoyed getting to review the various ongoing money saving programs. They have become accustomed to the negative news about the year-to-year deficit in available appropriations, and our committee has become a healthy venue to escape the armageddon of state government financing while focusing on providing real financial solutions.
The good news will continue this week as our committee prepares to hear from those who are implementing the state's information technology unification. The recent unification of the Department of Human Services with the other agencies has had a dramatic impact in terms of savings.
I will keep you informed.